The UK Launches A 22 Point Plan To Tackle Air Travel Disruption

Travel Disruption

The UK government has announced a new plan to address travel disruption in the aviation industry. The 22-point plan aims to avoid a repeat of the problems seen across UK airports over the past few months.

UK tackles aviation travel disruption

In response to the severe travel disruption across the UK this year, particularly over the busy Easter period, the UK government has launched a series of measures to support the aviation industry and passengers.

The joint initiative from the Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) aims to “minimize disruption in the aviation sector and protect passengers if it does happen.”

Staff shortages and rising travel demand caught many airlines and airports unaware, leading to long delays and thousands of canceled flights.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said,

“The 22 measures we’ve published today set out what we’re doing to support the industry. It’s now on airports and airlines to commit to running the flights they’ve promised or cancel them with plenty of time to spare, so we can avoid the kind of scenes we saw at Easter and half-term.”

The 22-point plan

As laid out on the UK government website, the 22-point plan is split into three broad categories – industry support, passenger support, and recruitment and training support.

Key takeaways from the plan include:

Industry Support

  • New regulations on airport slots, including an “amnesty” to hand back slots that can’t be fulfilled.
  • Weekly committees, including a Strategic Risk Group and Summer Resilience Group.
  • Weekly updates on schedule viability to ensure airline schedules can be fulfilled.

Passenger Support

  • A new Aviation Passenger Charter offering guidance on the rights and responsibilities of an air passenger.
  • Reviewing current airline practices on passenger care, compensation and legal responsibility.
  • Strengthening consumer protection, including expanding the CAA’s enforcement powers and written warnings to airports and airlines.

Recruitment and Training Support

  • Legal changes to enable airlines and airports to train and deploy staff more quickly.
  • Building partnerships with colleges and universities to attract interest in aviation.
  • Launching the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme (AGOSS) backed by £161 million in grants.

Aviation Minister Robert Courts said,

“The action we’ve taken to support airlines and airports isn’t just about minimizing disruption this summer, but helping the sector recruit the staff it needs for the long term. I look forward to continuing to support them in this effort where we can.”

Consumer group Which? responds

In June, Simple Flying reported on UK consumer rights group Which? warning that the government’s proposals on passenger compensation will weaken passenger rights.

Which? has responded to the government’s new 22-point plan, reiterating its belief that the CAA should be granted the power to directly fine airlines.

Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said,

“The shameful scenes at UK airports show why passengers need their rights to be strengthened and enforced by a strong regulator and compensation regime. The government should give the CAA powers to fine airlines directly when they flout the law, and drop plans to cut passenger compensation for delayed and cancelled domestic flights.”

Source: Simple Flying

Heathrow flight cancellations cause queues and ‘chaos’

Heathrow flight cancellations

Passengers have complained of queues and “total chaos” at Heathrow after the airport asked airlines to remove 30 flights from Thursday’s schedule.

The UK’s largest airport asked airlines to cut the flights because it was expecting more passenger numbers than it can currently cope with.

Some passengers did not know that their flights were cancelled until they arrived at the airport.

Heathrow said the cancellations were necessary for safety.

Travel writer and broadcaster Andy Mossack tweeted that there was “total chaos” and “zero customer service” at the airport on Thursday morning.

Mr Mossack, who was due to fly to Geneva at 08:25am, told the BBC he was told of the cancellation via an email about 6.00am which he didn’t see until he arrived at the airport.

“There are no flights to Geneva until Sunday or Monday. So I’ve had to come home”.

Terminal 5 was “awful… there were hundreds of people there. Some sleeping on the floor”.

Another passenger tweeted that terminal 5 was a “disgraceful shambles” after he arrived on Thursday morning to find his flight cancelled.

PA reported that one passenger, Andrew Douglas, said he had spent four hours in queues to find out at check-in that his flight had been cancelled with no prior notifications.

Other travellers complained of poor customer service and a lack of help when trying to rebook their flights.

A Heathrow spokesman said: “We will work with airlines to get affected passengers rebooked onto other flights outside of the peak so that as many as possible can get away, and we apologise for the impact this has on travel plans.

“We are working hard to ensure everyone has a smooth journey through Heathrow this summer, and the most important thing is to make sure that all service providers at the airport have enough resources to meet demand.”

A spokesman from British Airways, one of the airlines affected, said: “As a result of Heathrow’s requirement for all airlines to reduce their schedules, we’ve made a small number of cancellations.”

The airline said it was in contact with affected customers to “apologise, advise them of their consumer rights and offer them alternative options, including a refund or rebooking.”

Virgin Atlantic said one of their Heathrow to New York return services had been cut in each direction, while Air France, KLM, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Lufthansa, Aer Lingus, Brussels Airlines and Air Canada are also affected.

Meanwhile, the government is calling on the industry to run “realistic” summer schedules and alert passengers to any flight changes as “early as possible” to minimise disruption.

“It’s now on airports and airlines to commit to running the flights they’ve promised or cancel them with plenty of time to spare so we can avoid the kind of scenes we saw at Easter and half term,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Among the 22 measures the Department for Transport introduced on Thursday is a plan to give airlines a short window to hand back plane parking slots for the rest of the summer season.

This is aimed to help manage capacity at the busiest airports.

Earlier this month, around 5,000 people were hit by Heathrow cancellations because of technical issues affecting baggage.

Before that, tens of thousands of passengers had been affected by disruption at UK airports and flight cancellations during the week of the Platinum Jubilee and half-term holidays.

The disruption was caused by several factors, but staff shortages have left the aviation industry struggling to cope with resurgent demand.

Last week when Heathrow made a similar move, it was for a different reason – because of the knock-on impact of a technical problem with baggage.

This time, it’s linked to staffing; it realised more passengers were going to come through the airport the next morning than it has capacity for right now.

But why was the decision only announced on the afternoon of the day before?

The airport says it’s seeing increasing numbers of last-minute bookings following cancellations or disruption at other airports – and this is pushing up passenger demand. Thirteen percent more passengers were booked to fly today than Thursday last week.

Heathrow says it’s constantly talking to airlines, working with them to make sure the right amount of airline, airport and ground handling resources are in place to cope with the number of flights operating.

Gatwick has already announced it’s limiting flight numbers for July and August. Heathrow hasn’t done that, but points out that since Gatwick’s announcement, the government has announced a one-off “amnesty” on airport slot rules, and airlines are expected to use this to cut more flights to try to make schedules more resilient.

Source: BBC

How to plan a stopover in Dubai

stopover in Dubai

As the world’s busiest airport, Dubai International (DXB) might be a sight in itself, but there’s a whole world of wonder waiting outside its doors. Whether you’re staying for a few hours or overnight, plan ahead to find out everything you need to know to make your stopover in Dubai as smooth as possible.

First off, how do I book a stopover?

Adding a break in your journey in Dubai couldn’t be simpler. If you’re flying with Emirates Airline, you can easily book a stopover in Dubai and they will take care of everything, starting with a meet and greet at the airport to 24-hour check-in, tours, excursions and more. Once you’ve purchased your flight, you’ll need to contact your local Emirates office or travel agent to make the arrangements. They will also help with visas if required.

Additionally, there are a number of local travel agents who can assist with your stopover, hassle-free. Talk to them about adding a break in your journey to Dubai and arranging your visa. To be eligible for a transit visa, travellers must have a confirmed hotel booking for the duration of their stay, as well as a confirmed flight ticket departing from Dubai, within the duration of their transit.

I’ve just arrived – can I still book?

If you’ve just arrived and want to explore Dubai before heading to your next destination, you can do that too. Travellers can apply for transit visas directly at the airport, subject to immigration approval and security clearance.

Alternatively, Emirates offers special ‘Stopovers on Arrival’ packages that are on sale exclusively at the ‘Hotels & Visas for Dubai’ desk at Dubai International. You’ll find it in the Arrivals area, prior to Passport Control/Immigration.

Do I need a visa to visit Dubai?

Visitors from most countries are allocated a 30-day visit visa on arrival to Dubai, which is free and stamped on your passport at immigration. Find out if you’re eligible by contacting your local travel agent or the nearest UAE Embassy.

For shorter stays, consider a stopover or a transit visa, which is available for most passport holders for a duration of 48 to 96 hours. Applications can be made easily through travel agents and airlines. Please contact your local travel agent for up-to-date information and to apply for visas in advance.

How can I get connected when I land in Dubai?

Whether you’re looking for places to visit or simply want to get in touch with your friends and family, you can log on to the internet with ease at Dubai International (DXB) or Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) thanks to the airport ‘WOW-Fi’ network, which is fast, free and convenient.

When on your stopover, don’t forget to request your complimentary SIM card at the immigration counter. Available to all Dubai tourists, these cards are preloaded with minutes and data, and can be easily topped up for the entire duration of your stay. 

How long does it take to get to and from the airport?

Dubai International is conveniently located in the centre of the city. Generally it takes anywhere from 15 to 35 minutes to get to most places in the city, depending on where you’re going. A trip to Downtown Dubai is usually around 15 minutes in a car, while Dubai Marina is around 30 minutes from the airport. Old Dubai is around 15 minutes in a taxi.

You can also hop onto the Dubai Metro directly from the airport. Trains run approximately every 10 minutes direct from Terminal 1 and 3, from 5am to midnight (please note timings vary on weekends). Fares start at AED2 and smart public transport cards known as Nol, can be purchased at the stations. Most metro stations are connected to the public bus network as well.

What are the quickest transport options?

Local taxis are the most convenient option for quick trips and are now fitted with free Wi-Fi, so you can check your flight times while on the go. You can also easily hire an Uber taxi or use the local car ride-hailing service, Careem, which offers competitive rates and comfortable vehicles.

Is it worth leaving the airport if I only have a few hours?

Yes, absolutely. As well as being in close proximity to Old Dubai, the city’s most historic area, the airport is only a 15-minute drive to some of the city’s top attractions, including the Burj KhalifaThe Dubai Mall and Dubai Canal, making a two-hour round trip entirely achievable (and not overly expensive).

If I’m in town overnight, where should I stay?

Located in the centre of Downtown Dubai and a stone’s throw from the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall, Rove Downtown Dubai is an affordable option with a hip vibe. As well as being central, it’s a good place to explore the city on foot, with a short taxi ride taking you to the historic districts of Dubai or the upmarket gallery and restaurant precinct, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

What should I wear?

The UAE is a Muslim country and it’s advised to dress modestly and wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders, especially when visiting the malls and religious and cultural sites. Layers are a good option and lightweight fabrics are essential in summer. If you’re spending time outdoors, a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses are a must.

What can I do with my luggage?

Those planning a short stopover can store their bags in the ‘left luggage’ facilities at Terminal 1 or 3. It costs from just AED35 (US$10) per bag for 12 hours, and can be used by both arriving and departing passengers.

What language do most people speak in Dubai?

English is the most widely-spoken language in Dubai, due to the melting pot of cultures that live here. It’s good to brush up on some basic Arabic phrases to get an appreciation of the culture, but taxi drivers, wait staff, shop assistants and customer service people most often speak English.

Source: Visit Dubai

Rwanda: End of an Era – Govt Phases Out Machine Readable Passports

Machine readable passports have finally been phased out and will no longer be recognised as valid travel documents in Rwanda.

According to an official announcement from the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration (DGIE), the development took effect from June 28, 2022.

“The Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration would like to remind the general public that the Rwanda Machine Readable Passport (old passport) has been phased out and ceased to be recognised as a travel document with effect from June 28,” the announcement read.

All Rwandans who wish to travel to countries where a passport is needed, are required to have the new Rwanda East Africa Passport (EAC) e-Passport.

However, returning citizens with valid Machine-Readable Passports will be allowed to return to Rwanda.

In June 2019, the DGIE started the issuance of the e-Passports, a move that other East African countries including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have also embarked on.

An agreement between EAC member states targets that machine-readable passports are phased out within two years from the date of issuing of the first e-Passports.

In this respect, Rwanda’s first deadline for the phase-out was June 27 last year.

However, with the global Covid-19 pandemic that led to lockdowns in several countries, the Rwandan Communities Abroad could not travel to the nearest Embassy to provide biometric data due to travel restrictions.

As a result, Rwanda extended the phase-out deadline for one year, until June 27, 2022.

In an earlier interview with The New Times, Lynder Nkuranga, the Director General of the DGIE highlighted some of the advantages of the e-Passport, including the fact that it raises the level of trust for Rwandans traveling since it is considered as the world standard travel document.

“Countries can authenticate and confirm the issuing authority of the e-Passport. E-Passport forgery is close to zero because of the embedded chip that contains biometric data of the bearer,” she said.

She referred to the e-Passport as a secure digital travel document that can be digitally verified by other countries.

“The portrait and names written on the chip can be verified to confirm that the holder of the passport is the person whom he or she claims to be.”

The document is also looked at as a step forward in the fight against cross-border crimes including terrorism since it uses advanced technology that ensures that travel documents are used by the legitimate persons and authorities.

Rwandans abroad can apply for both the national identity cards and e-Passports via the Irembo portal.

The development assists Rwandans living in foreign countries to get their East African e-Passports.

The applicants’ biometric data is captured from the nearest Rwandan Embassy and be used for the processing of both ID card and e-Passport.

How much does it cost?

There are several categories of e-Passports. An ordinary one for minors valid for two-years costs Rwf25,000, while that of 5 years (with 50 pages) costs Rwf75,000.

An ordinary 10-year passport with 66 pages, costs Rwf100,000, a service passport with a 5-year validity costs Rwf15,000, and a diplomatic passport costs Rwf50,000.

Source: New Times Rwanda

ACI forecasts significant increase in global passenger traffic during 2022

global passenger traffic

The Airports Council International (ACI) says global passenger traffic in 2022 will be significantly higher than during the previous two years due to the relaxation of travel restrictions and returning confidence in air travel. 

Global passenger traffic is expected to reach 77% of COVID-19 pandemic levels, with 7.1 billion passengers travelling through airports in 2022. The positive trends in 2022 will be driven by global domestic passenger traffic.  

However, ACI warned that much uncertainty still surrounds the air travel recovery, “especially in the medium to long term” due to geopolitical conflicts, higher inflation, the risk of economic downturn, supply chain bottlenecks, labor shortages and potential new outbreaks.  

According to the organization, global domestic passenger traffic is forecasted to reach pre-pandemic levels in late 2023, while global international passenger traffic is expected to reach pre-COVID levels in the second half of 2024. This is hampered by a sluggish recovery in Asia-Pacific and a slower recovery in global international travel. 

“With the combination of ‘vacation deprivation’ and an upsurge in confidence in air travel provided by increased vaccination rates and safety measures, the relaxation of travel restrictions will help boost the propensity for air travel and fuel the industry’s recovery,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. 

“With many countries taking steps towards the return to a certain normality, lifting almost all the health measures and travel restrictions, we expect a jump in air travel demand in the second half of 2022,” de Oliveira added. 

Source:  Aerotime Hub